First row, from left to right: GM Maxim Dlugy, GM Alexander Fishbein, GM Jaan Ehlvest, GM Alex Yermolinsky, GM Alex Goldin
Second row, from left to right: GM Alex Shabalov, GM Joel Benjamin, GM Gregory Kaidanov, GM Igor Novikov, GM Larry Christiansen.
Watch the video GM Joel recorded for this special occasion!
Hi, folks! This is Joel Benjamin, reporting from St. Louis.
There was a generous $50,000 prize fund with $12,000 to the winner at the Saint Louis Chess Club. I participated with my old fogey friends and colleagues, and I’ll have some cool in-depth game analysis and a bit about where all these guys are now.
Alexander Shabalov won the tournament with a 6-3 score.
Not a big surprise there—he is the only former US Champion that keeps an active tournament schedule. He has had some hits in open tournaments lately and his rating has gone very low for him…still, I think everyone thought of him as a favorite. It was actually kind of amazing that he went undefeated, as he was on the brink of defeat many times, especially in our individual encounter, which I will lead off with.
A little more typical up and down Shaba game produced his second win of the tournament against Igor Novikov:
I want to look at one more game in some detail. Alexey Yermolinsky is well known to many of our viewers on ICC from “Every Russian Schoolboy Knows” to his live shows to his tournament commentary. He told me that he’s getting to the end of the line and might retire from tournaments, except he still wants to compete in senior tournaments. So this new event really helps keep at least one player in the game for us to enjoy. Now Yermo’s tactics aren’t really where he needs them to be; I think I probably took advantage of that in our individual game. But when he gets the right kind of strategical game, he knows what to do with it like few other players. Gregory Kaidanov was reminded of this the hard way.
Alex Goldin has only played a few tournaments over the last several years. He was trying his hand at poker, but after a bad streak, he began to wonder how long that could go on, and figured he needed a little more reliable lifestyle. He’s been doing a lot of chess coaching, but I think he has not lost his taste for playing. He told me he hadn’t had any alcohol for a month before the tournament and he seemed very motivated. With a score of 5.5-3/5, he took clear second. That’s another guy who might stick around for senior chess.
Gregory Kaidanov has always had a professional attitude and a healthy lifestyle. Now he never quite managed to win a US Championship, so a US Senior title could make up for that a bit. He ended up at plus one, not surprising at all, but surprisingly, that was clear third. He was perhaps the steadiest player in St. Louis, pretty solid, not a lot of blunders…unlike the rest of us.
Of the players on fifty percent that I haven’t talked about, there’s Larry Christiansen, who hasn’t played for a long time. He doesn’t like the crowd scene with two games a day at most tournaments, but he is still keeping up with the game and may retire from coaching and get on the European circuit in the foreseeable future. He started with two quick wins, but then he made a few bad decisions in his games and suddenly dropped to a minus score before ruining my tournament in the last round. He is another guy who is enthusiastic about the senior chess renaissance.
Jaan Ehlvest doesn’t play in many tournaments these days. He was once a world-class player but he doesn’t seem to have a lot of motivation anymore; that makes it hard to win a tournament like this.
Max Dlugy had the most incredible experience. He plays lots of blitz chess—but only blitz chess. For most of the tournament, this seemed like terrible preparation. H was playing kind of coffeehouse openings, making overly quick decisions, in short, playing like it was blitz chess. After 1/6, he finally got a win against Larry, and that really boosted his confidence. He settled down and played like vintage Max and won his last two games as well, equaling the win output of the first-place finisher and nearly getting back to fifty percent.
Alex Fishbein brought up the rear, but he had every chance for a plus score in the first half, and when he couldn’t put a win across, he faded a bit and lost a couple of games. He had a great chance to put a win on the board against Shaba, but missed that opportunity and ended up losing that one as well.
It was great fun in St. Louis, they run everything first-class there-great playing conditions, loads of drinks and snacks, great accommodations, live commentary, the works. It’s great for us to join in on the chess renaissance that is going on there, and we (the ones who will be lucky enough to make the top ten) will be looking forward to going back there next year.